Friday, January 27, 2006

'Fabulous Five' Starter Sharm Scheuerman And I Kept the Coffee Plenty Hot At Biaggi's By Exchanging All Those Great Bobby Knight Stories

Sharm Scheuerman and I were exchanging Bobby Knight stories over coffee at Biaggi's in West Des Moines.

One thing we both know is that there may not be a more unpredictable man in coaching -- any kind of coaching -- than Knight.

I've told the story before in these columns about how I was cutting my lawn one summer afternoon a number of years ago, and my oldest son came out of the house to tell me that Knight was calling me.

"Bobby Knight is on the phone," Lonn said.

"I suppose the next thing you're going to say is that the president is inviting me to the White House," I told him. "It's got to be a hoax. It's that damn Al Elder trying to play another practical joke on us."

"No, it's really Knight," Lonn said. "He wants to talk to you."

Know what? It was Knight. He was calling from his office on the Indiana University campus, and he wanted to thank me for something I had written about him.

Later, Knight [right] called me again at my office downtown. That time, he offered to write a guest column for the paper "so I can give you a day off."

That was at the time Johnny Orr, an old coaching buddy of his, was taking the Iowa State job. Knight's Indiana teams had faced Orr's Michigan squads plenty of times in Big Ten Conference games and the NCAA tournament, so he wanted to give him a proper sendoff.

Knight produced his "guest column" for me, and it was a good one.

Still later, Knight invited me to dine with him along with a group that included Brad Bomba, his team physician, and Bob Hammel, then the sports editor of the Bloomington, Ind., newspaper, when Indiana came to Iowa City for a game.

We met at The Lark, the well-known restaurant in Tiffin, just outside of Iowa City, for dinner.

The Lark's best steaks, potatoes, salad, name it, Knight ordered it.

Then, when the evening was about to wind up, the widow of Bucky O'Connor -- who coached Iowa's 1955 and '56 Final Four teams -- passed by Knight's table.

It was a scene that seemed to be set up by a Hollywood movie director.

Knight absolutely charmed her.

[By the way, there is no Lark in Tiffin anymore. The restaurant burned to the ground a number of years ago].

The day after I met Knight at The Lark, I bought his lunch at a restaurant in Iowa City -- a couple of hours after he had put his players through a practice session at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

It was during the practice that Gene Claussen, then a radio announcer at Iowa City station KXIC, asked Knight if he could interview him.

Knight agreed to tape-record the interview, but had a trick planned. He used profanity throughout the interview -- and no radio announcer in his right mind could have used it on the air.

That was long before "shock" radio existed. Claussen wasn't about to risk losing his station's license by using Knight's profanity on the air.

"But something inside me tells me to use it anyway," he said to me at the time out of orneriness.

My mention of the radio story brings up an amusing anecdote Scheuerman talked about when we were at Biaggi's, reliving the old days.

After being a starting guard on Iowa's "Fabulous Five" team in 1955-56 -- which won the Big Ten championship and finished second to San Francisco in the Final Four -- Scheuerman was the Hawkeyes' coach and, later, was a radio and TV analyst on Iowa games.

Jim Zabel [left] was doing radio play-by-play on Hawkeye radio broadcasts in those days, and Scheuerman was his analyst for a while.

"Most of the time, Zabel would tape-record an interview with the opposing coach, but when Iowa played Indiana he'd ask me go down to tape Knight," Scheuerman said. "I think he was a little scared of Bobby."

Knight, of course, always wanted to keep someone off-guard when he was at Indiana. You know as well as me that he's the same way now that he's in the twilight of his coaching career at Texas Tech.

Scheuerman said the site of his interview with Knight was in an old locker room area in Iowa Fieldhouse, where the Hawkeyes played before moving into Carver-Hawkeye.

He explained to Knight that he'd tape the interview and that it would be used on the pregame show.

Sharm also knew that his relationship with Knight had changed. Knight treated him differently when he regarded him as a member of the media than when he was a coach.

Knight always enjoyed intimidation -- especially when he could make a reporter the victim.

When Sharm started the interview, he said something like, "Here I am at courtside with coach Bobby Knight of Indiana......"

Just then, Knight interrupted the interview.

"Wait a minute!" he said. "Let's tell the truth about this. We're not courtside, we're in this locker room."

The rattled and frustrated Sharm turned off the tape recorder and started the interview over.

"I've got to get this done so it can be sent to Des Moines," he told Knight.

Finally, there was a Knight-Scheuerman interview.

When Sharm got to the WHO radio area at the fieldhouse, Scheuerman told Zabel what had happened.

"I hope you didn't erase what Knight said," Zabel commented. "I'd like to keep it."

* * *

Scheuerman will join 50 or so other former Hawkeye players tomorrow night at Iowa's Lettermen's Game.

The ex-players will be honored before and during the Iowa-Ohio State game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Iowa won Big Ten championships and played in the Final Four in both 1955 and '56. The '55 team [19-7 overall and 11-3 in the conference] lost to LaSalle and Colorado in the Final Four, and the '56 squad [20-6 overall and 13-1 in the Big Ten] is regarded as the school's best after reaching the championship game against San Francisco.

Unfortunately, McKinley "Deacon" Davis, a starter on the '55 team -- and Carl Cain, a starter in both '55 and '56 -- aren't expected back.

However, Bill Schoof, Bill Logan and Bill Seaberg will join Scheuerman of the '56 starters in what figures to be a very emotional night for everyone.